Edges of Empire

KNW 2399: Edges of Empire

Destruction in Mexico



The title of this Photograph is “Peon Crowds view havoc wrought by war in their city.” The Creator is Manuel Ramos and the photograph was taken during the year of 1913. Manuel Ramos lived form 1874-1945 he lived in Mexico City and was a photographer before the Mexican revolution broke out. He was very interested in architecture, which comes through in this photograph. Historically I am interested in what this photograph reveals about the Mexican revolution and the impact it had on the civilian population.

The first clear observation is the extensive damage done to the buildings in this area. The buildings are not simply dilapidated they are utterly destroyed. The right side of his photograph looks slightly like an optical illusion because of the vast number of walls that have been blown through. The second observation is the nature of the crowd. It appears to be almost an entirely male crowd and no one depicted is facing the photographer. Lastly there appears to be a soldier on top of the building clearly surveying the crowd with a rifle in hand.

The immense destruction to the buildings especially on the right hand side reveals how devastating the Mexican revolution was to the infrastructure of Mexico. These buildings are clearly not military outposts and although their could have been combatants inside of the buildings it seems a safe a assumption that a great deal of civilian property was crippled during this bloody conflict. The nature of the crowd also paints a very interesting picture of the revolution. In many literary sources Mexican women are said to have been fighting side by side with men but this crowd is entirely male. This begs the question of why there are no women viewing this destruction? The man with the rifle is another key element because the photographer made a conscious effort to have this soldier in the background. Whichever side he is with, the government or the rebels, he clearly has authority because the crowd appears to be non-violent. This photograph also raises the question surrounding the actual destruction. Was this a type of total warfare employed or simply an intense shelling that went wrong?

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